Archive for May, 2016

Potty Police

May 31, 2016

The Federal government seems bent on forcing restrooms to be open to anybody of any sex based solely on some undefined concept of “self-identification”.  As I blogged several years back, legislation is being crafted without even an attempt to clarify what “self-identify” means.  What does self-identification mean?  How is it ascertained?  Who validates it?  If I wake up this morning and prefer to use the women’s restroom because I’ve decided to self-identify as a woman today (but dress as a man), is that valid?

Massachusetts is pondering a bill that would legitimize the use of restrooms by either sex based on self-identification, but is at least attempting to recognize that this opens the door for all kind of abuse.  This bill proposes that “improper purpose” in using a bathroom that doesn’t match your physical gender would be grounds for reference to the appropriate law enforcement agency.  It references pre-existing definitions for “self-identification”, but they are predictably vague:

Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity; provided, however, that gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.

I can only imagine the public relations nightmare that would ensue if someone complained that there was a man in the women’s bathroom, the man claimed to self-identify as a woman, and the police demanded evidence.  I’m pretty sure that the legally safer path would be to discount any charges of misconduct.  In other words, women that feel violated by the presence of a man in their bathroom will effectively be silenced. Allegations of “improper purpose” will not be investigated very aggressively.   Charges will not be pressed.  The attempt to include what appear to be protections in the law will effectively amount to nothing.

Nice try, though.  I wish everyone could just agree that allowing men and women to use each other’s restrooms and showers is not a good idea.  I wish that media coverage wouldn’t just focus on bathrooms.  I’ve heard supporters of equal access claiming that nobody should be worried because women’s bathrooms all have stalls to ensure privacy.  But the proposed laws don’t just cover bathrooms – they cover locker rooms and shower facilities.  It’s not an issue of a person of uncertain sexuality enclosed in a separate stall from everyone else, but the reality of girls and women being forced to shower with an anatomical man – regardless of how that man likes to think of himself.

 

 

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More Vaxxed Thoughts

May 30, 2016

I continue to be perplexed by the response to this movie.  I’ve found several more articles that criticize the movie, but end up mainly criticizing Andrew Wakefield.  I’ve not seen any articles that deal with the movie’s main assertion – that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) altered and/or repressed data from a 2004 study on the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine that would have demonstrated a link between the vaccine that contains all three of these innoculations together, and autism in general and particularly for African-American children.

In “unrelated” news, however, a new study indicates the autoimmune system may be a critical factor in autism, though the study focuses on the mother’s immune system and response to infections or illnesses during pregnancy.  I wonder if what studies examine the child’s autoimmune system and how it responds to vaccinations.  Interesting.  An alleged whistle-blower for the nation’s clearinghouse for medical information – a whistle-blower specifically on one of the biggest, uncovered medical situations in our nation – generates absolutely zero interest from the media.  Nearly zero interest from Congress.

Interesting.  And troubling.  If it’s all a ruse and the movie is a lie, it should be easily disproved.  If not, we have grave cause for alarm, cause that might significantly affect the kind of research that is done in the future.  It seems easy enough.  Why isn’t anyone doing anything?

Reading Ramblings – June 5, 2016

May 29, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 5, 2016

Texts: Exodus 20:4-7; Psalm 113; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12; John 15:18-21

Context: We turn our attention to the Second Commandment. Now, before I move ahead with Luther’s version, I want to say that I think he got this wrong. I think that the Second Commandment should properly be to have no graven images. Luther ignores Exodus 20:4-6, moving directly from 20:3 to 20:7. I think that 20:4-6 ought to be the Second Commandment. However Luther doesn’t do it this way, and I’m supposed to be preaching The Small Catechism, not Paul’s interpretation of Exodus 20. So, back to task. We are to honor the use of God’s name. This is part of our proper worship of God. It is only proper to treat with reverence the name of the Creator of the Universe. It is this God who saves us through the name of his Incarnate Son, Jesus. To reverence the name of God the Son is to reverence God the Father, which is also to reverence God the Holy Spirit. Consequently, those who refuse to honor God’s name will reap the ramifications of their belligerence.

Exodus 20:4-7 – We do not profane God by attempting to represent him physically or worshiping any object. This has caused much debate over the centuries in the Church. Are the elaborate icons of the Orthodox Church a form of idolatry? No, they are devotional aids but not objects of worship. Likewise the cross should direct our thoughts to the sacrifice of Jesus, but we do not worship the form of the cross. Rather, we honor and worship God properly when we treat his name with reverence and awe. Refusal to do so is a willful disrespect of him who created the entire universe, which hardly seems like a wise course of action!

Psalm 113 – We are called to praise in verses 1-3, and specifically to praise the name of the Lord – to use the Lord’s name for worship rather than to misuse it. This is proper praise, proper use of the Lord’s name. Praise of God is always appropriate, at all times and situations because God is above the nations, and above the heavens. He is the Creator and master of nature and all creation as well as of humanity and all of our various allegiances and organizations. The power of God can reverse the misfortunes of the poor, placing them in the seats of honor. The power of God can reverse the barrenness of a woman, restoring her dignity and honor in a culture where the greatest source of pride for a woman was to have borne many children (particularly sons). The story of Abraham and Sarah, or the story of Jacob and Rachel, or the story of Hannah and her son Samuel are all instances where God granted children to women who had been unable to have them. We praise God knowing that all things are possible to him, and therefore nothing that we ask of him is impossible.

2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 – As we wait for our Lord’s return, we do so with the understanding that we anticipate the returning of all things to their proper state and nature. We think of this in many ways, but this passage focuses on the return of justice. Those who are afflicted for the name of Christ will one day be relieved of that affliction, and those who found it humorous or expedient to persecute them will be called to account. Jesus appeared in humility and weakness by the world’s standards in order to accomplish the perfect will of God to save all creation. But He will return in power and glory, not weakness and humiliation. Those who have rejected God and persecuted his followers will be called to account, and will find themselves punished for their unrepentant hearts and hands. They will be granted what they claimed to want – freedom from God. Freedom from God’s presence and rule and authority. They will be granted the horrible thing they wished for – to be free from God. But they will find that their desire in this respect was horribly misplaced. God is to be honored because He is good and powerful, and when we are removed from that goodness and power only suffering can result.

So Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to faithfulness in the face of persecution, to stay strong despite ridicule or more tangible offenses committed against them. The irony is that in enduring such persecutions, the name of Jesus will actually be glorified in their suffering. Their refusal to compromise, their willingness to suffer for his Name will be evidence of his authority and power and glory, just as their endurance will come from his authority and power and glory. The name of God is prone to abuse and neglect and persecution in this world, but we are not to let these things dissuade us from standing in our faith and in our refusal to malign his name.

John 15:18-21 – Faith in Jesus Christ earns the hatred of the world. Truth is always rejected by lies. Light is always a target of the shadows. Our respect and honoring of God’s name and identity and reality will earn us the world’s hatred, and we shouldn’t be surprised at this. After all, the world hated Jesus, and put him to a violent and early death rather than endure his teaching and continue to receive his miracles and blessings. The man who cast out demons, restored sight to the blind, restored hearing to the deaf, restored life to the dead, who fed multitudes and did all manner of amazing things to better people, this man the world put to death as a criminal! Can we be surprised that we who generally don’t perform such marvelous feats should be criticized and marginalized as well?!

As Jesus suffered, so we should expect to suffer. Our enemy is active and rages in his death throes, seeking to destroy as much as he can before his final banishment, seeking to separate as many as possible from the love of God. Suffering for the name of Jesus is not a sign that God is absent or false, it is the sign that He is very real and present, and his enemy despises this. Satan can’t hurt God, but he can damage God’s creation. Simply the name of God elicits his fury and wrath.

We are to stand firm when the world persecutes us for following Jesus. Throughout history people have learned this firsthand, suffered the loss of prestige or jobs or freedom or even life itself rather than reject or revile the name of God the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. Our culture rapidly advances in that direction. It is no longer a benefit to be known as a Christian, to be known as a member of a Christian congregation. It carries no social weight any more, and is rapidly becoming a stigma. Hold fast! We do not have to enjoy this suffering, but we have no excuse to be surprised or shocked by it. We must continue to praise the name of God rather than curse it, and in our gentle resistance to the demands of this world, may God’s name be glorified, may others be drawn to see through our imperfect endurance a God of love who waits with forgiveness for even the most virulent and vocal opponent. Our obedience and endurance may point someone to the cross and to the Son of God, and may be the means by which the Holy Spirit ultimately brings that person to eternal, saving faith. What a powerful blessing, that even our suffering can be used by God for his glory!

Uncovering Beauty

May 26, 2016

Four years ago almost I was blessed to travel with a group of parishioners to Israel.  Among the many amazing sites we visited was the town of Bethlehem, and the Church of the Nativity.

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Of course it’s an amazing place, and as old as it is, there is undoubtedly a constant stream of maintenance, upkeep, and rediscovery that goes on there.

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They continue to discover new things under the plaster of the walls, under the floors, literally everywhere.  This article details yet another discovery recently made- part of a series of angelic mosaics.  Beautiful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Gives What, When?

May 25, 2016

I found two articles from The Christian Science Monitor  on Muslim-related topics to be of interest today.  Each article highlights the issue of integration – how far should a majority non-Muslim culture go in terms of accommodating the religious preferences and practices of Muslims?

The first has to do with a US company being sued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).  The company refuses to grant Muslim employees additional break times to fulfill their duty of prayer five times daily.  These prayer times, from what I can tell, fall between specific hours of the day.  This web site claims to give the appropriate time-frames for the five prayers, but is not the easiest to decipher!  The article mentions that Muslims have flexibility, but doesn’t say how much (though the web site above gives some indication).  CAIR is suing the company for religious discrimination.  The employees attempted to negotiate with the company, asking for unpaid breaks.  The company refused this option based on work stoppage concerns.  The company clearly was willing to hire Muslim employees, but the number of these employees had risen to the point where interruptions based on prayer were becoming more impactful.  I’m impressed by the efforts both the employees and the employer undertook to try and reach a successful agreement.

The second article has to do with Muslim students in Switzerland.  Two male Muslim students refused to shake hands with a female teacher.  In Switzerland it is apparently traditional to begin and end the school day with a handshake between teachers and students.  A Muslim organization indicated that the boys were being unreasonable, as integration and respect trumped Muslim restrictions on physical contact with someone of the opposite sex outside of immediate family.  Since the boys would be expected to work someday and would need to shake hands in order to accomplish this, refusing to shake their teacher’s hand is deemed unreasonable and counterproductive.

Interesting to watch how integration is and isn’t working.  In both countries, the Muslim population is well below 5% of the total population.

 

Movie Review: Vaxxed

May 24, 2016

Since posting about the controversy at the Tribeca Film Festival surrounding the screening of the movie Vaxxed, I hoped for the opportunity to see it.  Fortunately it came to our area for a one-week limited engagement, and my wife and saw it Monday night.

I start out by admitting that I want this movie to be good.  I’m a sympathetic viewer.  While I acknowledge the potentially great good that vaccines may have in the past done, may do currently, and hopefully will do in the future, I’m also skeptical anytime someone tries to ram a point of view down my throat.  The tremendous growth of autism in our culture is far more than just better diagnostics.  There must be a reason for what is truly an epidemic.  To rule any possible cause out of bounds immediately seems the height of foolishness if not arrogance, particularly when that cause is the injection of materials into a child’s body.  I am not anti-vaccination, but I am distrustful of a perfect storm of government mandates and for-profit pharmaceutical/bio-engineering interests.

As such, let me also point out that those who dismiss this movie as anti-vaccination are uninformed at best, malicious at worst.  This film is not anti-vaccination.  It states that repeatedly.  It deliberately limits the scope of discussion to a single  vaccination – the combined measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine.  It does not raise questions about these as separate vaccinations, but only when combined into a single shot.  It does point out the curious matter that the single vaccinations have been discontinued by the manufacturers, leaving parents the only options of doing without the vaccine or receiving only the combined form.  I find that worth investigating all on its own.

All that being said, I wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped to be, and I wasn’t as convinced as I hoped to be, mostly because the film doesn’t clearly and simply lay out the data in a no-nonsense approach.  Rather, it spends the vast majority of time on what might be the logical fallacy of appeal to emotion.  Look at how these families and children are suffering, isn’t it awful?  Well of course it’s awful!  I paid to see the movie in the first place because I am very well aware of that suffering and how real and pervasive and long-term it is.  I’d go so far as to say anyone sitting in the theater to see this movie already knows that autism is a devastating condition.  How about focusing clearly and repeatedly on the actual point of the film?

And the alleged point of the film is to assert that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) manipulated and destroyed data for a 2004 study on a possible relationship between autism and the MMR vaccine.  As another curiosity, a search at the CDC website for “Vaxxed” returns nothing.  Apparently they don’t feel the need to address the issue raised by this film.  Interesting.

The film’s assertion centers on the release of data from a CDC insider, Dr. William Thompson.  The heart of the film ought to be the clear comparison of data between the official CDC report in 2004, and data purported to be untampered with that predates this report.  The movie alleges that – among other things – data was eliminated in order to eliminate any statistically significant relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism.  While the movie does talk about the data, it could have done a much better job of it.

Ultimately, the film should ensure that every person that walks out of the theater could explain it to others.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel that I can.  The film alleges that the CDC reduced the sampling population – the number of participants included in the report – in order to minimize any relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism.  I think there was more to it than that, but I’m not confident enough to explain it.  And for this reason alone, I think the film fails to do what it should have done.

Since Monday night, I’ve been searching out rebuttals to the film.  How are people arguing against what the film has to say?  It’s not hard to find articles and sites dedicated to this purpose.  Here’s a current Washington Post article on the matter.  It details seven things the film doesn’t say that it feels are important.  Two of them have to do with Andrew Wakefield and the discrediting of him personally that has occurred in the professional medical community.  One has to do with the film’s removal from the Tribeca Film Festival.   The article seems to think that this is a significant fact about the film that in some way discredits it.  Anybody who saw Robert de Niro’s interview on the Today Show will likely recognize that there were a lot of factors contributing to the film’s removal, none of them proof of or refutation the film’s premise.

But interestingly, this article – nor any of the other reading I’ve done – refutes the basic premise of the movie, which is that the CDC tampered with the data.  Most articles point to Wakefield’s discrediting, to questionable motives on his part, to editing choices in the film.  None of them (at least that I’ve found) refute the main allegation of CDC tampering.  And frankly, if you can’t refute that, then you haven’t refuted the film’s main purpose.  IF the CDC is guilty of tampering with data to favor a particular outcome, we have a very serious and very dangerous situation on our hands that needs to be thoroughly investigated and people held accountable.  IF the CDC can be shown to be not guilty of this, then the movie can be chucked out as mistaken at best,  malicious at worst.

The movie ends with several specific action items for viewers to follow through on.  The only one I remember is writing our congressional representatives to ask that Dr. William Thompson, the whistleblower, be formally deposed by Congress under oath, and that the same thing happen for five other key players at the CDC from the 2002-2004 timeframe.  This seems like a reasonable course of action.  A Senator has been provided with the documentation demonstrating the alteration of data, yet Congress has not moved to act on this.

I can’t understand why they wouldn’t.  If you’re going to have a movie out alarming people, the least you ought to be able to do is determine if the film’s main allegation is true – did the CDC alter/eliminate data to hide a correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism rates?  Why would they not do this?  Can someone explain it to me?

So, that’s where I’m at currently.  Still investigating rebuttals, but so far there has been NO rebuttal of the film’s allegations of CDC misconduct.  That is the only issue at play, for me.  Only by determining if that is true, can we determine whether or not concerns about the MMR vaccine are valid or not.  Only by determining if the data has been manipulated can we know whether we can trust the CDC or not.  I’d like to think that we can, but a penchant for history and a lifetime fascination with human behavior both individually and collectively tells me that such a position is dangerous.

 

 

It Is a Big World

May 23, 2016

And oftentimes a beautiful world as well.  It’s easy to forget that after listening to partisan news/Twitterfeeds/Facebook rants/podcasts all day.  Here are two examples of a beautiful world to start the week.

First off, German windows.  I forgot how much these things ROCK.  Being overseas again last summer reminded me of the genius of German engineering.  I’m sure these must each cost roughly the equivalent of a space shuttle, but heck, they are also worth every penny.  German windows are an example of beauty still in this world.

Secondly, pho.  This fantastically delicious soup is yet another proof of a beautiful world and the creativity of people who persevere in spite of incredible adversity.  This is a short article on the history of pho, and as such doesn’t include my first introduction to pho by a pretty girl after a disastrous off-road trip while dealing with an unpleasant head cold.

There you go.  The world isn’t all bad.  We will survive this election cycle.  At least some of you will.

 

 

Reading Ramblings – May 29, 2016

May 22, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: Revisiting the Catechism – The First Commandment

Texts: Exodus 20:1-3; Psalm 2; Romans 2:12-16; John 6:44-47

Context: Embarking on my own selection of Scripture verses for a season has taught me a profound respect for those who assembled the lectionary. Putting verses together in a coherent and insightful fashion is not easy work, and I have undoubtedly botched it more than succeeded. Nevertheless, we continue!

The First Commandment forms the basis for all that follow. It is the why which prefaces the what. Because God, me. Because Creator, Creation. Not out of necessity, but only out of divine goodness. Scripture beautifully addresses the issue that Socrates will eventually deal with in Euthyphro– what is the nature of good? Is good a separate standard that the gods must conform to? Or is good the arbitrary determination of the gods? Scripture says neither. Good is God. We cannot conceive of good separate from God because He is the source and definition and embodiment of it.

As such, it is not possible to have any other god, any other source of good, any other source of identity or purpose. Therefore we should fear, love, and trust in this God above all things. God is the Creator, and throughout Scripture this is the litmus test for godhood. Did you create the universe and everything in it? Then you’re God. If you didn’t, you aren’t.

Exodus 20:1-3 – Having brought the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob out of slavery in Egypt, God reveals himself in power and awe, his presence dwelling in grandeur draped around the summit of Mt. Sinai. From here He proclaims his Word to his people. He begins by answering the question Moses asked of him in Exodus 13 – who should I tell your people sent me? He is the one who delivered them from the most powerful empire in the area, who delivered them not simply from slavery but from a political and religious authority bent on their annihilation. They witnessed firsthand his power and authority over the false gods of the Egyptians. Therefore, He has the right to say these things to them, to lay out what it means to be his people. Whether they choose to accept these terms is irrelevant – these terms stand for all eternity, the continual definition of what it means to live in harmony with the Creator. Even should they refuse to be God’s people, they cannot escape being God’s creations, and thus bound by these conditions. God is not creating an arbitrary moral code unique to his people. Rather, He is revealing the fabric of his creation, the stitches which define not just the residents of his universe, but the universe itself.

No other god is possible. No other god is desirable or necessary. God is God alone, and no other god can rightly come before him in our hearts and minds.

Psalm 2 – The reality of God and his will woven into creation can of course be resisted. We see this regularly, with nations still raging against his precepts and people still plotting against his will. We have watched the influence of God’s will in our own country weakened and nearly wiped out of the public sphere. The first three verses of this psalm are quite raw and fresh to us today as they were when composed roughly 3000 years ago!

We worry and fret and wonder how to defend the power and dignity of God, but such worries are useless and unnecessary. His will cannot be undone, how power cannot be resisted, his will cannot be nullified, and his will shall be accomplished. The wise will recognize this and submit to his authority. The foolish will not, and will suffer his wrath.

Romans 2:12-16 – The Law of God is not arbitrary. Rather, it is part and parcel of creation, so much so that even those who do not know of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures or the Ten Commandments can affirm the validity of those commandments. It isn’t as though someone can say Those Ten Commandments are all well and good for you, but I have a different, separate moral code that I follow that is equally valid and binding. God’s Law is binding on everyone. Those who refuse it, or reject it – whether they know it in the form of the Ten Commandments or not will perish in their refusal and rejection. Those who do accept it must confess in the process that they do not keep it perfectly, and therefore stand condemned by it. The Law convicts universally. We are universally in need of a savior.

John 6:44-47 – Some of the crowd that was fed miraculously (John 6:1-15) returns to Jesus the next day, and He gives them plenty to chew on. They object to Jesus commanding their faith in him (6:30), claiming that Moses performed a more impressive feeding via manna than Jesus did with five loaves of bread and a few fish. Jesus corrects their misunderstanding. Manna didn’t originate in heaven. Moses didn’t send it. And the people who ate it died eventually.

Jesus, however, is the true bread of life. He has come down from heaven. Sent by God – who sent the manna in the desert to the Israelites. And whoever partakes of Jesus’ body will not die. Jesus does not just perform a greater sign than Moses, He IS the greater sign that Moses could never be. Participating in the moral code of the Israelites does not make one a follower of God. That is possible only by the offering of God himself, as He offered it at Mt. Sinai, and as He now offers it through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Only by accepting the offer of God to be his follower does one receive life – eternal life. It isn’t a matter of intellectual assent, but rather of devotion, relationship.

God is the one who creates the context by which we are saved. He is the one who teaches us about this through his Word and by the gift of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who grants the life that we are promised as we entrust ourselves to him. That act of entrusting creates salvation, every bit as much as the drowning person must entrust themselves to their rescuer, rather than continuing to thrash for their own survival.

There is no shortage of other aspirants to god status. Sometimes our choices are lousy, other times we’re thrilled with them. But when our peace of mind and well being are shattered by these false idols, we are reminded that there is only one God. Only one Creator. Only one Savior. Only one who has sacrificed himself specifically for you and I that we might have hope and life that wildly exceeds the greatest promises of any political candidate or party, any prescription medication, any entertainment option, any spouse or child or best friend, any golden parachute or winning lottery ticket.

Movie Review: The Drop Box

May 21, 2016

My wife introduced our family to The Drop Box this past week after hearing about it from a friend and watching it herself.

This documentary tells the story of  a South Korean pastor who has sparked some controversy in his country by creating a drop box at his church for unwanted babies.  Anyone can leave their baby in this box – day or night – and know that their child will be taken care of.  The alternative that faces many (primarily teenage) mothers is abandoning their newborns to die on the streets.

It’s a well crafted documentary that clocks in at about an hour and 20 minutes long.  I could be a little tighter and compact, perhaps, but it is not boring.  Through the movie we meet the 15 children that Pastor Lee and his wife have personally adopted – the majority of them heavily handicapped in various ways.  We hear briefly from social services leaders and community leaders offering their thoughts on Pastor Lee’s unorthodox decision.  We get a brief taste of the amount of work and sacrifice Pastor Lee and his wife make on behalf of these children.

But most of all, this movie is an eloquent and simple affirmation of life.  Every life.  All life.  Life as a gift from God and therefore capable of transforming people even if that person is unable to speak or move.  When the cult of death yells so convincingly and incessantly these days, demanding the right to kill people or to let people kill themselves, this movie offers a powerful statement that life is good.  Always.  Maybe not easy or simple or convenient, but always good.

See this movie and see what one person is capable of doing.  See this movie and be reminded (or taught for the first time) how important all life is, and how dangerous it is when we begin to marginalize life, creating metrics to determine when life is worthwhile and when it isn’t.

 

Nobody’s Business

May 20, 2016

The early assertions of the move to redefine marriage in our country were that the changes wouldn’t affect anyone.  What did it matter to you, traditional heterosexual married couple, if someone else wanted to marry someone of the same gender instead?  How could it possibly matter to you?  The argument proved persuasive.  We begin to realize in retrospect that the argument was deceptive.  If you’re going to say that same-sex marriages are legal, then you need to re-educate people to accept same-sex attraction.  The entire educational system (as well as media) is being revamped to be fully inclusive in all discussions of sexuality and gender.  Social media platforms are already acting on this to provide users with a broad selection of options in their self-designations.

And for those who are no longer in school and subject to the sticks and carrots of grades and evaluations and scholarships, different sticks need to be used.  Legislative sticks.  The threats of fines for failing to adhere to the newly developing social structure.  So it is that the New York City Commission on Human Rights can insist that you must refer to people the way they prefer for you to.  If you’re speaking to a man who thinks of himself as a woman, you have to refer to him the way he wants – with feminine pronouns (she, her) or titles (Ms., Mrs.).  Or, you have to become acquainted with a burgeoning field of gender-neutral or gender-alternative pronouns like zie or hir.  Never heard of them before?  Better do your homework, or you could be fined $125,000 the first time you refuse to bow to the arbitrary whims of whomever you’re talking to.

I don’t think this ruling can withstand a Freedom of Speech lawsuit, but it’s scary to think that a group of people actually consider it reasonable to force an entire city to do and say what they want them to do and say under threat of financial ruin.